Q&A with ‘A Bunch of Amateurs’ Director Martin Kempton

The start of our 22/23 season is rapidly approaching, and we’re looking forward to kicking off the year with Ian Hislop & Nick Newman’s hilarious comedy, A Bunch of Amateurs!

With the show opening in a few weeks, we sat down with director Martin Kempton to find out a little more about the show and what audiences can expect.

Hi Martin! Tell us a little bit more about the show came about… what made you choose this particular play?

Well the honest answer is I didn’t. I volunteered to be added to the list of possible directors for the new season at WT. I was thrilled to be chosen to direct the first play.  A Bunch of Amateurs had been selected by WT’s play-reading committee, headed by artistic director Alan Long. He passed me the script and asked if I liked it.  Fortunately, I really did!

What can audiences expect from the play?

It’s a comedy written by Ian Hislop and Nick Newman, both of whom have great experience of writing comedy for television, and they wrote this script just a few years ago.  Although very funny, it’s not a broad farce – the comedy comes from a clash of cultures and the people in it are all recognisable as real personalities.

It also has a bit of depth to it, which I like. I hate the expression ‘going on a journey’ but in a way, that is what happens to all the people in the play. They make mistakes and misjudge one another but learn from those mistakes and are better people at the end.

It’s hugely enjoyable and very funny indeed!

Why is it called A Bunch of Amateurs?

It’s about an aging American action hero film star whose career is on the rocks.  His agent persuades him to go to England to play King Lear on the stage.  Unfortunately, it’s not the Royal Shakespeare Company that he is expecting, but a small amateur drama group whose theatre is a barn in the middle of the countryside.  As you can imagine, he is furious but so are some of the members too!

Anyway, during the play we see them attempting to rehearse the Shakespeare and of course all the backstage squabbles between clashing personalities.

So is the final performance of King Lear a disaster?

Not at all!

I’m not going to reveal what does happen, but this is not like The Play That Goes Wrong or Noises Off!

How are rehearsals going?

Really well!  I’m so lucky to have a cracking cast.  They are all really experienced actors and are absolutely making the most of all the opportunities in the script.

It’s a real pleasure to direct – I’m simply guiding them to produce top notch performances.

Are there any special challenges?

One or two!

The play has some special effects in it that I won’t reveal. Also some very fast scene changes but those seem to be going well.  We also have music in it, but I’m so lucky that the wife of our production manager is a composer with her own recording studio.  She has created some superb music for the songs that are in the script.

We’re ending with a big song and dance number too so hopefully all the audience will leave the theatre with a big grin on their face.

A Bunch of Amateurs is running at WT from 8 – 17 September 2022 and tickets are on sale now.